Chris N. Jayne, Bridget M. Miller, Hugh C. Crethar, Krista M. Kezbers, Natalie N. Singleton & Colton A. Brown. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma; e-mail: chris.jayne@okstate.edu

Athletic coaches have the ability to impact their players’ lives beyond the time they spend mentoring them during training and competition. Of particular interest is the influence of the coach/athlete relationship on the health goals and motivation of the athlete after the completion of their athletic career. Goal contagion is the process by which individuals adopt and pursue goals implied by another person’s behavior (Aarts, Gollwitzer, & Hassin, 2004). It has been studied most frequently in business settings related to money making and entrepreneurship and found to be most effective when individuals belong to the same collective group. Athletics teams are an ideal system for the evaluation of the transition of goal setting from leader (coach) to the subordinate (athlete) (Loersch, Aarts, Keith Payne, & Jefferis, 2008). To what extent do these interactions and lessons solidify over time and impact the athletes post competitive health practices? PURPOSE: To examine how the experiences of former competitive athletes with their coaches has influenced their current health behaviors, goals, and motivations. METHODS: Qualitative, semi-structured focus groups were conducted with former athletes. Responses were transcribed and coded for common themes. RESULTS: Through an initial analysis of data provided through focus groups, several themes have been found. The current analysis reveals themes including: life lessons, practice what you preach, and a focus on person over player. The most prevalent theme in our data of practice what you preach has become almost universal. Many participants have alluded to this concept as being a major focus in the facilitation of health behaviors and overall strength in coaching. CONCLUSION: Those identified as being “Good” coaches have many traits in common, as do those identified as “Bad” coaches. These commonalities can help to solidify the notion that coaches have the ability to facilitate lasting impacts on their player’s health and health behaviors well after the athletes are finished competing. The idea of Goal Contagion has manifested as both motivating factors for health behaviors, as individuals have identified that some of the health related teachings, as well as the health behaviors modeled by coaches have stuck with them after competition.

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